The Kibbutz Goes Kaput

by Zoe Pollock

Rachel Johnson recently revisited the collective she volunteered at during her youth:

The kibbutz was a third of the size it used to be, and there was no communal dining hall. Instead, everyone stayed home at night, watching TV. And the average age of the members was 80.

She reflects on the larger changes in Israeli society:

Sociologists date the beginning of the end of the kibbutz movement to as long ago as the war of 1967. The annexation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem meant the end of socialism and the start of messianic, Zionist capitalism. Now signs of the change are everywhere. For example — in one of those tiny changes that symbolises a big shift — sandals, the emblematic item of socialist footwear, almost compulsory on the kibbutz, were banned from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in 2007. …

As I left Galilee, I realised that it would be simplistic to say that the changes in the kibbutz movement mirror the changes in politics, the economy, and the population. In Israel, things are always more complicated. But a country that was once socialist, secular, and led by men who’d all been on kibbutzim, like David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, and Ehud Barak, has turned religious, nationalist and capitalist. There is only one kibbutznik left in the Knesset, but two settler MPs are already ministers.

(Image by Flickr user epiclectic)